We watched the sun come up through the windows of our 1970 Ford Maverick as we approached St. George, Utah. There were four of us shoehorned into the little car. Tricia, who had the God-given gift of being able to curl up in the back seat of a compact car and sleep for hours on end, was all smiles and chirping about the beautiful sunrise. The three men – Ian, Bill, and I – were weary, irritable, and wondering what sort of small, furry animal had crawled around on our tongues the night before.
This adventure had begun only a few days before when our mutual friend Cindy had called Tricia and invited her, and anybody else who wanted to come, to her upcoming wedding. The thorny part was that we were living in Laramie, Wyoming and the wedding was to take place on a boat that would be anchored off Santa Catalina. Yes, that Santa Catalina, the island off the coast of Southern California, 1200 miles away. The wedding was to take place in two weeks.
I had known Cindy since she was 13 years old. In 1968 I was one of a good-sized group of hippies that hung out together in Laramie. We called ourselves “The Family” as did, I suppose, nearly every group of hippies in every little town across America. There were two little girls, Tricia and Cindy, who would come over to our place after school and rant about being oppressed by the fascist faculty of Laramie Junior High. We thought the girls were so cute that we called them “The mini-hippies.” Cindy quickly became “Cinderella.” Any pimply 14 year-old boy with big ideas about either of them would soon realize that this pretty little girl had a bunch of scary-looking big brothers that he’d have to deal with. As long as they hung around with us, their honor – and virginity – would remain intact. Whether they liked it or not.
Nine years later Tricia was living with her boyfriend Ian and they were both in school at the University of Wyoming. Cinderella’s parents had moved to Newport Beach in Southern California and she had gone with them. So when her call came, four of us decided to go. Why? Three reasons – 1) We all loved Cinderella and wanted to be there on her Big Day. 2) In Wyoming, March is still Winter with its low temperatures, high winds, ground blizzards, and general bleakness. The temptation of sunny, warm days, white sand beaches, and palm trees was irresistible. 3) It wouldn’t be just a Road Trip, but a Road Trip with gold oak leaf clusters!
Bill was a Graduate Student in the Physics Department at UW and couldn’t leave until Thursday Evening and had to be back to teach a class at Noon on Monday. So the plan was to leave as soon as Bill was ready, about 8 o’clock, drive all night, and arrive at Cinderella’s parents’ house in Newport Beach in the middle of the day on Friday. Best-laid-plans being what they are, we didn’t get out of Laramie until 10 o’clock.
Ten hours later we were crossing the State Line from Utah into Nevada. We had decided to wait for breakfast until we got to Las Vegas. Billboards along the highway were advertising lavish breakfast buffets for less than two dollars a person. Being young and knuckleheaded it didn’t occur to us that you couldn’t just stop, run in, chow down, and be back on the road in thirty minutes by doing this. The casino operators don’t put their buffet rooms near the doors. They practically hide them in the center of the building and make you thread your way through every gambling area they offer before you can finally get there.
“Whatsamatta, kid? Lost? Go back that way, put a few quarters in the machines on your way. Ya never know, am I right?”
When found, the buffet was as extensive as the billboards had promised. Again, not a good place if you’re in a hurry.
“This time I think I’ll try the omelet station – cheese and mushrooms please, and some of those huevos rancheros with guacamole and sour cream.”
When we finally left Las Vegas, with stomachs painfully distended, almost two hours had gone by. We were all concerned about the time, but after consulting the map and doing some math, Bill said that we should get there by four-thirty. This was a relief because Cindy had said that everyone would be gathering at her parents’ house until six o’clock, when we would all drive down to where the boat was tied up and get on board. We thought maps, pay telephones, and Cindy’s handwritten instructions could get us to the house okay, but if we got there after everyone had left, we hadn’t a prayer of finding this mysterious “boat” on our own.
Following I-15, we dropped down into the Los Angeles basin near San Bernardino in good time. Then we hit the Los Angeles Freeway System at rush hour. The Southern California Freeways were built to make travelling more convenient – for people who were already familiar with their intricacies. For four freeway-virgins from Wyoming, it was painful.
“Okay, the map says to turn right on Highway 91.”
“So I need to get over into the right lane?”
“Yeah, so you can turn around. We went past the Highway 91 exit a couple of minutes ago.”
“What is this? Why is everybody just stopped?”
“Okay, we’re moving again. No, we’re stopping again. How far did we get? 20 feet?”
“All right, finally moving again. I can’t believe that. Two guys pull over to change a tire and traffic grinds to a halt for miles. Now, are we supposed to be going North or South?”
“East, I think.”
It was nearly 7 o’clock when we finally turned onto the street in Newport Beach where Cinderella’s parents’ house was located. Our only hope was that someone had at least left a note on the door with directions down to the marina. Instead, the house was bustling with people carrying boxes and bags in and out, loading some cars and unloading others. Inside there were whoops of laughter and big hugs from folks that we knew, and greetings and handshakes from those we didn’t.
The Groom and his friends had been nearly as late as we were and they had most of the provisions, and the liquor, for the party that night on the boat. Cinderella, hiding her annoyance at his tardiness, introduced us to her fiancé, Tony.
Tony wore a mint green leisure suit over a wide-collared, dark green shirt. The top three buttons on the shirt were open to show a gold chain running through thick chest hair. His four or five friends were all dressed similarly in the best that the Polyester Industry had to offer. Tony looked us over through his aviator shades, seemed to quickly size us up as tired-looking, rumpled hicks from nowhere important, and after an insincere greeting, oiled his way over to where his friends were mixing drinks.
“Hey you guys!” came a familiar voice. We turned and there stood Victoria – Vicky to others, she would always be Victoria to me. Jumping up and down, she hugged each of us and told us how glad she was to see us again. Smart, funny, and cute as peaches, Victoria could break your heart and make you laugh at the same time. Since Cinderella was too busy to talk, Vick was happy to answer our questions as best she could.
Who was Tony? He was something of an enigma. He obviously had access to money, he had rented a boat big enough for 50 people to cruise out to Catalina and back, but no one was sure whether it was his money or someone else’s. At times he said he had stakes in several gold mines, other times he said he was in the Service Industry. All anybody knew for sure was that he spent a lot of time hanging around Las Vegas with his Lounge Lizard friends.
Why did Cinderella agree to marry him? He was handsome, wealthy, charming when he wanted to be, and willing to cater to her sometimes eccentric desires. For example, she told him she always wanted to be married by a sea captain. So he paid for a 140-foot boat that came with its own crew and sea captain. She said she refused to be married in a white dress. So he gave her the money to go to Sax Fifth Avenue and buy a purple gown with a floral motif.
Later that evening, we finally got on board the boat to find a table full of sandwiches, which we gratefully ate, and a well-stocked bar where the liquor was already flowing copiously. At that time, I had been awake for 36 hours straight and my eyes were crossing with fatigue. After finding out there was a compartment with bunks – “Just go forward to the main stairs, down, then forward again as far as you can go.” – I said goodnight and found the compartment. It was triangular, the point of the triangle being the bow. There were bunk beds along both outside walls – or, as we nautical folks say, “bulkheads”.
I picked a bunk, unrolled my sleeping bag, and was asleep before my head hit the pillow.